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What the WikiLeaks Controversy Says about Nigeria’s Leaky-mouthed Elite

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. Just when you think you’ve read the worst possible testament to the spinelessness of Nigeria’s blabber-mouth...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Just when you think you’ve read the worst possible testament to the spinelessness of Nigeria’s blabber-mouthed elite, WikiLeaks releases more secret U.S. diplomatic cables that just make your head spin in utter horror and embarrassment.

Well, there is now what must feel like a soothing letup for our ruling elite in the flow of humiliating exposés of their dirty little secrets. For me, four things stand out in bold relief in the aftermath of these WikiLeaks revelations.

First, most Nigerians would seem to be held hostage by a debilitating and deep-seated inferiority complex. This complex consists in the internationalization of a mentality of low self-worth and an inordinate reverence of the foreign, especially if the “foreign” also happens to be white. I once called this xenophilia.  It is this xenophilic inferiority complex that allowed low-grade US diplomatic officers to extract treasure troves of sensitive national secrets almost effortlessly from well-placed Nigerian officials.

Our elites’ egos are  often flattered to no end when a white person--any white person--considers them “worthy” enough to serve as traitorous snitches against their own country. When I worked in the presidential villa during Obasanjo’s administration, people used to joke that the surest way to attract the president’s attention was to bring a white person to his office. Many a truth, it is said, is uttered in jest.
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I once read the experiences of German expatriate workers in Nigeria who said they made a boatload of money from Nigerian governors who paid them to appear with them in public as “foreign investors.” They said all they did was to pretend to sign documents, shake hands, and take pictures with governors and commissioners.

It isn’t only our political leaders who are afflicted by this psychiatric malaise. A friend here in the United States once told me the story of a rich Nigerian woman who came to Houston in the state of Texas to treat a medical condition. It turned out that the best doctor for her condition was a Nigerian-born medical doctor. But the woman, to the shock of people who referred her to the Nigerian doctor, said she would never submit to being treated by a Nigeria. “How can I spend millions of naira to come to America only to be treated by a Nigerian? No way! I might as well have stayed in Nigeria. No, I want a white man to treat me,” my friend quoted her as saying.

Long story short, the Nigerian doctor recommended the treatment regimen to be given to the woman and handed it to a white doctor who administered it to her.

Second, the willingness of our elites to divulge unsolicited information about the nation to U.S. officials betrays an infantile thirst for a paternal dictatorship. The United States is seen as that all-knowing, all-sufficient father-figure to whom our elites run when they have troubles. We have learned from the US embassy cables that our Supreme Court judges, Central Bank governors, even vice presidents and governors routinely run to the American embassy like terrified little kids when they have quarrels with each other.

 The condescending language that the diplomatic cables deployed to describe our elites clearly shows that even the American officials they confided in were amused by the juvenile exuberance of our leaders to squeal. They are infantilized as clueless informants who become garrulous when the right buttons are pressed.

What I’ve found particularly instructive is that our perpetually lying politicians suddenly become truthful, honest, and straight-talking people when they talk to Americans. You would think they were standing before their Creator—or at least before a stern, omniscient, no-nonsense dad who severely punishes his kids for the minutest lie they tell.

For instance, Nuhu Ribadu who had told the world that he thoroughly investigated former President Obasanjo and found him squeaky clean confessed to the Americans that Obasanjo was, indeed, more corrupt than Abacha who, in Nigeria’s popular discourse, has become the byword for obscene corruption.

The same Ribadu shamelessly lied a while ago that the EFCC he headed never investigated Mrs. Patience Jonathan over money-laundering allegations. But leaked US diplomatic cables confirmed that he did. I think Ribadu deserves an Academy Award for his great acting and lying skills.

What of Nasir el-Rufai who publicly denied any debt to Atiku Abubakar for his social rise only to confess to American embassy officials that Atiku indeed gave him his first public service job as head of the Bureau of Public Enterprises?

In the past, many people had been falsely accused of being “CIA agents.” For instance, Dr. Patrick Wilmont, the brilliant sociologist who taught at Ahmadu Bello University for many years, was deported to England under the pretext that he was a CIA agent. Many other innocent people, Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike, have been falsely labeled “CIA agents.” Now we know that it is our leaders who are embedded in the inner recesses of our national power structure that are the real CIA agents. The American government doesn’t need to invest a lot of money planting agents in Nigeria when they can—and do—get any information they want first-hand and untainted from our very leaders.

Third, the revelations from WikiLeaks betray the extent to which our elite have no faith in the country. The nature and scope of squealing by our political elite that we have read from the leaked cables can only come from people who have no patriotic investment of any kind in their nation. It is obvious that the only thing that unites our elite is their common desire to loot and plunder our oil wealth. Once the oil dries up and there is no other means of cheap revenue, I doubt that Nigeria can endure.

Finally, the nature of the denials that emanated from our government officials in the wake of the damning revelations against them betrays unnerving ignorance. For example, President Jonathan, shamelessly stealing a line from el-Rufai, dismissed the WikiLeaks cables about Nigeria as “peer parlor gossip.” But WikiLeaks is merely a website formed in 2006 for exposing secret documents from governments all over the world. In the current case, they are merely exposing cables that US embassy staff wrote from all over the world, not just Nigeria.

 The site didn't author those cables. So what we've been regaled with these past few months is NOT "WikiLeaks’s beer parlor gossip"; it is U.S. diplomats' dispatches, which were intended ONLY for the consumption of the US president, the US Secretary of State, and other high-profile government officials but which WikiLeaks exposed to the rest of the world at the cost of tremendous discomfort and embarrassment to the US government.

The juvenility of the responses from the president and other government spokespeople to the WikiLeaks revelations about them confirm English journalist Francis Claud Cockburn’s famous quip that you should “Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.”

Whatever it is, the faith of many people in the “Nigerian project” is being destroyed.

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